Microsoft Hones .Net

Developers conference will spotlight advances in .Net and Web services.

A year after introducing Visual Studio .Net, Microsoft Corp. is expected to offer showgoers sneak peeks of the next two versions of its integrated tool suite at the VSLive developers conference in San Francisco this week.

The company will highlight the momentum behind its flagship development tool, along with the .Net Framework and the overall .Net and XML Web services strategy. Microsoft is also expected to demonstrate its "Everett" Visual Studio .Net release, which is due to ship April 24 along with Windows Server 2003, as well as its "Yukon" Visual Studio .Net release, which is more than a year away from delivery, said Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash.

"Were going to be talking about momentum and showing technology to support it in the areas of mobility, mobile application development and ... Web services," said Ari Bixhorn, lead product manager in Microsofts developer and platform division.

In addition to presenting information on features in Everett, Microsoft will demonstrate the Yukon version of Visual Studio .Net, formerly code-named Whidbey, which will include updates of all the core Web services underpinnings.

The Yukon release is expected to be available by next year and will be closely aligned with "Longhorn," the version of Windows due out late next year, according to company officials.

Sources said many features due in Yukon will be incremental improvements, such as simplification of the integrated development environment interface, support for the latest Web services specifications and enhancements to ASP.Net.

Microsoft is also expected to share increased productivity data from total-cost-of-ownership studies, showing the benefits of using the companys tools. It will introduce sample applications built using ASP.Net and will release beta tools the company has been promising that use Visual Studio technology to develop solutions for Microsoft Office, code-named Trinity, sources said.

One success story to be presented this week is expected to involve the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the country, which is rewriting one of its primary applications using Everett and other tools. It is also using a suite of Visual Studio .Net add-ons from Infragistics Inc., of East Windsor, N.J. (see "Charity Reworks Processes With VS .Net").

To encourage third-party vendors to integrate their tools with Visual Studio, Microsoft will announce additions to its VSIP (Visual Studio Integration Program). So far, more than 130 ISVs have integrated more than 300 tools with Visual Studio .Net, Bixhorn said.

Vijay Lal, senior product manager for NetManage Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., said the company will announce its entry into VSIP this week for its mainframe integration technology, OnWeb.

"I think most of whats going on is were seeing the maturity of the platform," said Andrew Brust, president of Progressive Systems Consulting Inc., in New York, who is scheduled to speak at the conference. "This show is about getting work done; last year [.Net] was a new platform."

Stephen Forte, chief technology officer of Corzen Inc., a New York-based financial market information service, agreed: ".Net and Everett are more than Web services. Web services are just one of five major platforms that Everett delivers on: Windows, [application service provider], mobile, Pocket PC and Web services."

Overall, developers say they feel that Microsoft is moving in the right direction.

"Changing of the name of the new server line to drop .Net is actually a very positive move," said Bill Zack, co-moderator of the New York City .Net Developers Group. "Previously, naming everything .Net just obscured the fact that the real .Net platform is a great new development and application hosting architecture. It is, of course, one thing that Microsoft is doing right. It is head and shoulders the best platform I have ever worked with."